Jason Momoa has horns in this adaptation of classic comic Little Nemo in Slumberland
Originally a comic created by American cartoonist and animator Windsor McCay, Slumberland’s whimsical storyline has been capturing people’s imagination since its comic strip debut in 1905. The cartoon has been adapted for screens once before in the 1989 animated film Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland. Now, Netflix are bringing a live-action adaptation of McCay’s Slumberland to audiences, featuring Jason Mamoa, Marlow Barkley, Weruche Opia and Chris O’Dowd.
Directed by Francis Lawrence (The Hunger Games, I Am Legend), Netflix’s Slumberland follows Nemo, the daughter of Nemo from the original comics. After the death of her father, Nemo travels to Slumberland, the land of dreams and nightmares, in a bid to find him. It’s there that she meets eccentric, half-man half-beast Flip (Mamoa), who claims he used to be friends with her father.
Together, Nemo and Flip travel through dreams and escape nightmares, causing all kinds of trouble along the way.
Helping to bring the weird and the wonderful feel of the original to Netflix, Outpost’s Montréal and Mumbai teams worked across multiple sequences for Slumberland. Outpost VFX Producer, Mandy Middlewood, touches on the scope of our work for the film:
“Across 145 shots we froze characters in time, animated a stuffed pig, extended an office floor into infinity, landed a plane into a London alley during WWII, and transformed an elaborate Art Deco washroom built of mirrors into a grubby little elevator.”
Perhaps the most creatively challenging of all Outpost’s work on Slumberland was the sequence in which Flip and Nemo are frozen by Agent Green’s freeze gun. Here the team were tasked with maintaining full rigidity of the character’s bodies, while animating a subtle rippling movement in the hair, cloth, and groom of the characters. As if this wasn’t challenging enough, the sequence took place in a mirrored set, following a difficult camera move.
Middlewood says of the sequence: “We’re particularly proud of the work we did with clients Eve and Adrian on the mirrored washroom shots – they were a full year in the making. With a fantastic collaborative effort, at one point requiring seven compositors and a special team of roto, paint, and CG artists all working in tandem, we delivered this shot of 1,241 frames. That’s around 52 seconds – an incredible length for visual effects.
“The camera travelled in 360 degrees for multiple revolutions around Jason Mamoa and Marlow Barkley's characters suspended in mid-air in super slow motion, completely surrounded by mirrors,” Middlewood continues. The use of the mirrored environment meant that there was a lot of clean-up to be done to remove the camera crew’s reflections and blue screens while ensuring that the reflections of the CG-elements were correctly shown in multiple mirrors.
The movement in the character’s hair, fur, and clothes required the CG team to get the amplitude of the rippling movements just right, creating a subtle slow-motion effect on the different materials.
Another sequence that required a lot of creative input from the Outpost team was the transformation of the mirrored set into an elevator. Setting up a perfect full-CG match of the washroom, the team transformed the set on camera as the characters walked through it across the sequence duration of 36 seconds – another long VFX shot.
The team worked together with the clients to meticulously choreograph the mechanical movements of the transformation to achieve the desired effect.
Throughout the movement, the mirrored walls flipped, revealing non-mirrored Art Deco walls, slowly introducing pieces of the elevator that moved inwards enclosing Flip, Nemo and Agent Green. The entire marble floor was also replaced, and part of the elevator floor spins to reveal an additional character, Frank, via a revolving elevator wall panel. Middlewood says: “It really was an absolutely herculean effort from our CG and Comp teams, as well as our render farm.”
The team were also tasked with bringing one of the key characters – a stuffed pig named Pig – to life in a number of sequences. Pig, who mostly resides in Nemo’s backpack, was a fun challenge to animate. Using only his eyes, ears and mouth to express his emotions, the team were able to give Pig his own personality, and he soon became a favourite character among the Outpost team.
Alongside these huge VFX sequences, the team also undertook other tasks such as animating Flip’s goat-like ears, set extensions and DMP.
Watch Slumberland on Netflix, available to stream from Nov 18.